Around 1978, Erv had been doing research in urban anthropology, focusing on the social structure of opera, opera being one of his most intense loves. Once again, he blended his professional and personal interests. Erv continued his research on opera, so he could spend as much time as possible studying his beloved artform.
Since his early years of listening to Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, and his high school years of ushering at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago, he cherished opera, and now had the opportunity to share it with others.
Erv and Stacey spent many weekends, and week nights attending opera in the Western |
New York Region. They found a proliferation of opera productions, and continued their advocacy by meeting with other opera lovers in other cities, and by co-founding the OperaBuffs of WNY in Buffalo. Erv believed an audience did not need to be limited to
a place, therefore, numerous road trips and lectures were enjoyed. Opera lovers came
from all over the region to experience the expanded offerings WNY had to offer.
Johnson expanded his research after he received a grant from the Canadian Government to study opera in Canada. Much of his work in this area took place after his diagnosis of
cancer and radical surgery. Until the time he passed away, Erv, through his knowledge
and outreach, brought more people together in the pursuit of opera. He cared for each one
as though they were the most important person in his life, and they responded in turn.
The last few months of Erv’s life were spent fighting the aggressive cancer. He continued
to invite his doctors to come to the opera, to call to reserve tickets for OperaBuffs and generally to preside over the group. Only in the last two weeks of his life did he give
up these activities. He died September 23, 1988. He was 60 years old.
Johnson was outspoken about the need for a new opera house on the Niagara Frontier. He bequeathed his dream to WNY “Where is Our Opera House?” in his last editorial in OperaBuffs Newsletter.
Excerpts were also published in the Buffalo News following his death.
The Erwin H. Johnson Memorial Fund was established to be used for the furthering of opera in Western New York, and especially the establishment of an opera house in Buffalo, as expressed in his last editorial. The first concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, January 30, 1989 at 8:00 p.m.